Aspiring three-year-olds are picking up steam towards their Classics bids. The Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (G1, 1,600m) victor, Danon Fantasy (JPN, F3, by Deep Impact), commenced her 2019 season in the Tulip Sho (G2, 1,600m) at Hanshin Racecourse on March 2, which is the main prep towards the first leg of the Triple Crown for fillies, the Oka Sho. The Best Two-Year-Old Filly of 2018, trapped behind a wall of horses in the early stretch, switched paths to the outside at the furlong marker and charged home to victory a length ahead of Shigeru Pink Dia (JPN, F3, by Daiwa Major) and Noble Score (JPN, F3, by Deep Impact), who was a nose late in third, as the three secured their tickets to the Oka Sho. 2018 Artemis Stakes (G3, 1,600m) winner Schon Glanz (JPN, F3, by Deep Impact) was fifth in the Tulip Sho.
No One (JPN, F3, by Heart’s Cry) and Pourville (JPN, F3, by Le Havre) earned their Oka Sho bookings a week later in the Fillies’ Revue (G2, 1,400m), where they tied for the win in a dead-heat photo-finish. They will be joined by Juranville (JPN, F3, by Kinshasa no Kiseki), who was a half-length back in third. Regard Calme (JPN, F3, by Lord Kanaloa) and Red Aster (JPN, F3, by Deep Impact) were also granted berths in the coming first leg of the fillies’ triple as the top two finishers in the Anemone Stakes (Listed, 1,600m), another Oka Sho trial that was held on the same day as the Fillies’ Revue. Red Aster made rapid headway rounding the last two turns but was a 3/4-length short of the winner, Regard Calme, who displayed a good burst of speed from a handy position earlier.
Prior to the above trial races, the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies runner-up Chrono Genesis (JPN, F3, by Bago) and third-place finisher Beach Samba (JPN, F3, by Kurofune) kicked off their three-year-old campaigns in the Queen Cup (G3, 1,600m) on February 11. Together they stormed down the stretch, picking off most of the field after advancing from rearward positions, before Chrono Genesis claimed a hard-fought win by holding off Beach Samba, who reached the wire a neck behind in second.
Other key runners among the Oka Sho field will include Figlia Pura (JPN, F3, by Harbinger) and Aqua Mirabilis (JPN, F3, by Victoire Pisa), who respectively claimed the Fairy Stakes (G3, 1,600m) on January 12 and the Elfin Stakes (Listed, 1,600m) on February 2. Gran Alegria (JPN, F3, by Deep Impact), who finished third against male opponents in the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes, will make her three-year-old season debut in the Oka Sho. Contra Check (JPN, F3, by Deep Impact), winner of the Flower Cup (G3, 1,800m) on March 16, is likely to head for the Yushun Himba, the second leg of the fillies Triple Crown.
The 2018 Best Two-Year-Old Colt, Admire Mars (JPN, C3, by Daiwa Major), concluded a flawless two-year-old season by going undefeated in all four starts, including the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes, but kicked off this season with a second by 1-1/4 lengths in the Kyodo News Service Hai (G3, 1,800m) on February 10. The Daiwa Major (JPN, by Sunday Silence) colt ran out of steam after setting the pace and was caught before the furlong marker by the hard-charging Danon Kingly (JPN, C3, by Deep Impact), who displayed a good turn of foot from sitting off the pace in third earlier. Admire Mars will now head towards the Satsuki Sho on April 14 then the NHK Mile Cup on May 6. Kyoto Nisai Stakes (G3, 2,000m) victor Courageux Guerrier (JPN, C3, by King Kamehameha) was four lengths further back in third.
On March 3, Meisho Tengen (JPN, C3, by Deep Impact) claimed the Yayoi Sho (G2, 2,000m), the main trial race towards the Satsuki Sho, by holding off a hard-charging Schwarz Riese (JPN, C3, by Heart’s Cry) and Breaking Dawn (JPN, C3, by Victoire Pisa) in third, all three earning their tickets to the first leg of the Triple Crown. Meanwhile, two-time graded winner and Hopeful Stakes (G1, 2,000m) third-place finisher Nishino Daisy (JPN, C3, by Harbinger) and Keisei Hai (G3, 2,000m) victor Last Draft (JPN, C3, by Novellist) were sent off as the top two favorites in that order but finished fourth and seventh, respectively.
Other qualifiers for the Satsuki Sho include Velox (JPN, C3, by Just a Way) and World Premiere (JPN, C3, by Deep Impact), the top two finishers in the Wakaba Stakes (Listed, 2,000m) on March 16, and Emeral Fight (JPN, C3, by Kurofune), who bested a four-horse rally in the Spring Stakes (G2, 1,800m) on the following day, ahead of Fantasist (JPN, C3, by Lord Kanaloa) and Dixie Knight (JPN, C3, by Daiwa Major) in second and third. Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes runner-up Kurino Gaudi (JPN, C3, by Screen Hero) tired from setting the pace in the Spring Stakes and finished sixth.
Other notable Satsuki Sho contenders include Satono Lux (JPN, C3, by Deep Impact), who registered his third consecutive win in the Sumire Stakes (Listed, 2,200m) on February 24, and the 2018 Hopeful Stakes runner-up Admire Justa (JPN, C3, by Just a Way), who finished a 0.2 second behind in second. Saturnalia (JPN, C3, by Lord Kanaloa), the 2018 Hopeful Stakes champion, will head straight to the Satsuki Sho while Danon Chaser (JPN, C3, by Deep Impact), winner of the Kisaragi Sho (G3, 1,800m) on February 3, will pass the first leg of the Triple Crown and aim for a G1 title in the NHK Mile Cup on May 5 before proceeding to the Tokyo Yushun on May 26.
The New Zealand Trophy (G2, 1,600m) at Nakayama Racecourse on April 6 and the Arlington Cup (G3, 1,600m) at Hanshin on April 13 are regarded as trial races for the NHK Mile Cup, with Val d’Isere (JPN, C3, by Lord Kanaloa), who won the Shinzan Kinen (G3, 1,600m) on January 6, scheduled to run in the latter.